Thursday, September 27, 2012

The NFL Blog: 2012 Power Rankings (After Week 3)

Power Rankings After Week 3

1. Houston 3-0 (1st)
2. Baltimore 2-1 (3rd)
3. San Francisco 2-1 (2nd)
4. New York Giants 2-1 (8th)
5. New England 1-2 (5th)
6. Green Bay 1-2 (4th)
7. Atlanta 3-0 (9th)
8. Philadelphia 2-1 (6th)
9. Pittsburgh 1-2 (7th)
10. Arizona 3-0 (15th)
11. Denver 1-2 (11th)
12. Chicago 2-1 (13th)
13. Dallas 2-1 (14th)
14. Seattle 2-1 (16th)
15. San Diego 2-1 (10th)
16. Detroit 1-2 (12th)
17. Cincinnati 2-1 (23rd)
18. Tampa Bay 1-2 (21st)
19. Washington 1-2 (18th)
20. Carolina 1-2 (17th)
21. New York Jets 2-1 (20th)
22. Buffalo 2-1 (22nd)
23. New Orleans 0-3 (19th)
24. Minnesota 2-1 (26th)
25. Miami 1-2 (27th)
26. Kansas City 1-2 (30th)
27. Oakland 1-2 (31st)
28. Jacksonville 1-2 (29th)
29. Tennessee 1-2 (32nd)
30. St. Louis 1-2 (25th)
31. Indianapolis 1-2 (28th)
32. Cleveland 0-3 (24th)

Comments: Week 3 was a stunning, chaotic, and extremely entertaining week in the National Football League. It led to more chaos in my power rankings. 

28 of 32 spots experienced change this week, with 15 teams moving up at least 1 spot and 13 teams going down at least 1 spot. Of the 15 teams going up, 11 moved up more than 1 position. Of the 13 teams going the wrong way, 10 fell more than 1 place. 

The Houston Texans were one of the few teams to stay in place, as they held the #1 spot for a second consecutive week. At the other end of the rankings, the Titans escaped the bottom slot after just one week, climbing 3 spots to #29 following their wild victory over the Lions. 

The Cincinnati Bengals defeated Washington on the road this weekend and they made the biggest move up my rankings, rising 6 places from #23 to #17. The Browns took by far the biggest tumble in the rankings following their loss to Buffalo at home by 10. Cleveland fell 8 spots from #24 to take over the #32 position at the bottom of the rankings. 

After only 3 weeks we are down to just 3 undefeated teams. The Texans are obviously my highest rated 3-0 team at #1. Surprising Arizona is my lowest ranked 3-0 team at #10. Few would have predicted Arizona to be undefeated 3 weeks into the year. 

Perhaps even fewer would have predicted the Saints to be one of only two winless teams remaining after 3 weeks. The Browns are obviously my lowest ranked 0-3 team at #32, which makes New Orleans my highest ranked 0-3 team at #23. 

The Patriots are my highest ranked team with a losing record at #5, while the Vikings are my lowest ranked team with a winning record at #24.  

The College Football Blog: 2012 Season Résumé Rankings (After Week 4)

Season Résumé Rankings After Week 4

1. Alabama 4-0 (1st)
2. Georgia 4-0 (5th)
3. Notre Dame 4-0 (2nd)
4. Rutgers 4-0 (NR)
5. South Carolina 4-0 (8th)
6. Kansas State 4-0 (NR)
7. Louisiana Tech 3-0 (NR)
8. Florida 4-0 (3rd)
9. LSU 4-0 (10th)
10. Texas 3-0 (6th)

Out: UCLA (4th); Stanford (7th); Ohio (9th).

Comments: In order to come up with this week’s rankings I used an approach similar to the ones I’ve used earlier this year. Once again I made some slight changes to the formula. Since we are now four weeks into the season I decided to loosen the requirements up a bit. 

This week in order to be eligible for the rankings a team had to be undefeated and have at least 3 wins against FBS schools. Thus, I would be choosing amongst teams that were 4-0 against FBS teams; 4-0 with 1 win against an FCS team; and 3-0 against FBS teams. 

This eliminated several undefeated teams, including 4-0 teams who had more than 1 win against FCS teams (FSU for example); 3-0 teams with 1 win against an FCS team (West Virginia for example); and 2-0 teams (Oregon State for example). 

These requirements narrowed the list down to 18 contending teams. I then graded each team’s wins in close to the same fashion as I did last week. I did make a few changes. 

Previously any team that had played an FCS opponent was ineligible, but I would now have to factor those games in. Basically I decided to ignore games against FCS teams all together. The only exception would be a close win over an FCS opponent which would be minus 1-point. None of the teams under consideration had 1-score wins over FCS teams so they actually didn’t have any effect at all on these rankings. 

I decided to tweak the way I graded out “strength of opponent” this week. Mostly for the sake of convenience I decided not to differentiate between “decent” and “average” teams. For this week a team was awarded 0 points for a win over a “poor” team; 1 point for a win over an “average” team; 2 points for a win over a “good” team; and 4 points for a win over a “great” team. The scale increases from 2 to 4 to reflect the difference between a win over a team like Michigan State and a team like USC or Oklahoma. 

However, while combining the “decent” and “average” groups together made things faster and much less confusing it was also one of the bigger weaknesses of this week’s system. Using this formula, there was no difference between a win over FIU and a win over Missouri. 

The other major flaw in this week’s formula was that road blowouts had a tendency to throw things out of whack. Just like last week I gave out 0 points for a win at home; 1 point for a win at a neutral site; and 2 points for a win on the road. I also stuck with the grading scale for margin of victory: 0 points for a 1-score victory; 1 point for a win by more than 1-score; and 2 points for a blowout (roughly defined as a 3 TD margin). 

The problem with this formula is that a road blowout against any team was automatically worth at least 4 points. In other words, a 30-point win over UMass on the road would be worth as much as a 3-point win over USC at home. That doesn’t seem to make much sense. 

When the formula seemed to spit out something totally screwy I would intervene, but for the most part I went according to the scoring system. I am, of course, still using my own judgment and gut feelings to rank the strength of opponents. 

I switched out 3 teams in the top 10 this week. 9 of the 10 spots in the rankings were different from the previous week. Alabama remained the only constant, holding the #1 spot for a fourth straight week. 

UCLA lost to Oregon State at home last week and they took the biggest fall in the rankings, dropping from #4 all the way out of the top 10. Of the teams remaining in the top 10 Florida had the biggest slide, falling 5 spots from #3 to #8. 

Georgia and South Carolina were the teams that made the biggest move up the rankings this week, with each team rising 3 spots. Rutgers made the biggest splash of any team this week, jumping into the rankings at #4 after their win at Arkansas.  

Anyway, it’s still a little early for these rankings to be taken all that seriously. They’ll become more relevant as the season progresses.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The College Football Blog: 2012 Power Rankings (After Week 4)

Power Rankings After Week 4

1. Alabama 4-0 (1st)
2. Oregon 4-0 (3rd)
3. LSU 4-0 (2nd)
4. Florida State 4-0 (6th)
5. Georgia 4-0 (7th)
6. Texas 3-0 (5th)
7. South Carolina 4-0 (10th)
8. Stanford 3-0 (8th)
9. USC 3-1 (9th)
10. Florida 4-0 (11th)
11. Kansas State 4-0 (NR)
12. Oklahoma 2-1 (4th)
13. Notre Dame 4-0 (13th)
14. West Virginia 3-0 (12th)
15. Clemson 3-1 (NR)

Out: UCLA (14th); Arizona (15th).

Comments: This was one of those weeks when the biggest challenge was coming up with 15 teams worthy of the rankings. 

Comparatively, things were a bit calmer in my power rankings this week. In my week 3 rankings, 13 of 15 slots changed. This week, only 11 of 15 places were different from the week before. 

Also, after switching out 5 teams the previous week, I only switched out 2 teams this week. UCLA (#14) and Arizona (#15) dropped out of my rankings this week, with Clemson (#15) and Kansas State (#11) returning to the top 15 after falling out of the rankings the week before. KSU made the biggest splash, upsetting Oklahoma on the road to climb back into my top 15 at #11. 

Clemson may be the strangest addition to the rankings this week, as they lost by double digits for their first defeat of the season on Saturday night, yet they claimed the final spot in my power rankings. They showed me something by putting up so many points against FSU and giving the Noles that big of a scare on the road. And to be honest there weren’t many other candidates. Clemson may not be a great team, but they are certainly dangerous, and they have one of the most explosive offenses in the country. 

Alabama remains my #1 team for a fourth straight week and at this point there doesn’t appear to be a team on their level. After spending the previous two weeks at #2, LSU fell a spot to #3 following a much closer than expected win over Auburn. 

It was a surprising final score, but I wouldn’t make too much of LSU struggling on the road against one of their biggest rivals. Auburn and LSU know each other as well as any two teams in the country and that has a tendency to keep things close even when the teams don’t appear to be evenly matched. 

Oregon takes over the #2 spot in the rankings following their absurdly one-sided victory over Arizona at home late Saturday night. Arizona may have made some unforced errors and missed some chances early, but by the end of the game I was convinced that it wouldn’t have mattered if the Wildcats actually had taken advantage of those early opportunities. Arizona was able to hang around and stay somewhat in the game for a while, but eventually Oregon got rolling and simply vaporized the Cats. 

It’s hard to beat even a bad team 49-0, but this was a conference opponent that came into the game 3-0. Arizona had defeated Oklahoma State by three touchdowns two weeks earlier. Oregon topped Zona by seven TD’s on this night. The Wildcats had scored 115 points over the previous two games. They didn’t score a point against the Ducks. 

Of the 5 teams moving up in my top 15 this week South Carolina made the biggest move, climbing 3 spots from #10 to #7. 

4 teams dropped in my rankings this week while still remaining in the top 15. 

For the second week in a row West Virginia fell 2 spots in my rankings despite having won, this time falling from #12 to #14. Once again the reason for the fall was that they just didn’t look like an elite team against weaker competition. 

Of course the team taking the biggest tumble in my rankings was the Oklahoma Sooners who lost at home to Kansas State. I don’t have a lot of patience for Oklahoma this year. It seems like just about every year Oklahoma goes into the season with as good a chance as any team in the country of going undefeated. However, falling short of expectations has also become an annual tradition. I moved the Sooners down 8 spots this week from #4 to #12. 

Last week there was just one team in my top 15 with a loss: USC at #9. This week there are three teams in my power rankings with a loss: USC at #9; Oklahoma at #12; and Clemson at #15.

The NFL Blog: 2012 Week 4 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread: (7-9); Straight Up: (5-11)
Season: Vs. Spread: (26-20-2); Straight Up: (25-23)

Week 3 Review: It was an ugly week for me, particularly picking winners. It feels weird to be three weeks into the season and have a better record ATS than straight up. Of course things could very easily have turned out better for me. I came out on the wrong end of the Sunday and Monday games, both of which were horrendously officiated. 

It’s a very different week for me if the Pats and Packers win (and they should have), as I’d have been 8-8 ATS and an acceptable 7-9 straight up. My week 1 performance is the thing keeping me afloat at this point after back-to-back disappointing weeks. 

Week 4 Preview: This will be the first week of the season in which we have less than the full slate of games. It seems weird to have only two teams on a bye. Maybe they’ve been doing it for a while and I just haven’t noticed it before. Actually I think it’s a good idea because nobody really wants to waste their bye in the 4th week of the season. 

This week doesn’t feel quite as intimidating as week 3 did. There are a pair of double digit spreads this week and three other games have spreads of at least 7 points. Last week there wasn’t a single double digit spread and there were just three games with spreads of at least 7 points. 

It will be interesting to see if the league is able to get the real officials back for this weekend. If not, we have to expect more chaos. 

Thursday Night’s Game

Cleveland (+12.5) @ Baltimore
Pick: Ravens cover

Sunday’s Early Games 

New England (-4) @ Buffalo
Pick: Patriots cover

Tennessee (+12) @ Houston
Pick: Texans cover

San Diego (+1) @ Kansas City
Pick: Chargers pull off the upset

Minnesota (+7) @ Detroit
Pick: Lions win but Vikings beat the spread

Carolina (+7) @ Atlanta
Pick: Falcons win but Panthers beat the spread

Seattle (-1) @ St. Louis
Pick: Seahawks cover

San Francisco (-4) @ New York Jets
Pick: Niners cover

Sunday’s Late Games

Miami (+6) @ Arizona
Pick: Cards cover

Oakland (+6.5) @ Denver
Pick: Broncos cover

Cincinnati (-1) @ Jacksonville
Pick: Bengals cover

New Orleans (+9) @ Green Bay
Pick: Packers win but Saints beat the spread

Washington (+3) @ Tampa Bay
Pick: Bucs win but Skins beat the spread

Sunday Night’s Game

New York Giants (+1) @ Philadelphia
Pick: Giants pull off the upset

Monday Night’s Game

Chicago (+3.5) @ Dallas
Pick: Cowboys win but Bears beat the spread